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YouTube Paid Channels: A Great Idea or a Rip-off?

Updated on June 2, 2013

YouTube's Paid Channels: Scorned and Applauded

When a company decides to change the way things are done, there are always going to be at least two camps: those 'for' and those 'against' the changes. When it comes down to it, the company has come up with a plan of action and will stick to their guns. YouTube has been rumored to have paid content coming (suspected by changes in Google Play's YouTube app) since early 2013. In May of 2013, the plans were officially announced by YouTube.


The people opposed to paying for content on YouTube seem to believe that previously free content will be swept behind a pay wall. While this is the possibility for some, I don't believe it will be a wide-spread issue. Popular channels by "real people" already bring in good money with those ads you click-to-close when a video starts. How? Not everyone closes them, and through AdSense, money gets moved around. It is actually a very lucrative business plan for some. Hiding behind a pay wall eliminates a large portion of an audience, cutting profits. Hiding behind a pay wall also cuts off the stream of new viewers. Unless you're a big name with a ton of previously-unavailable content that is sought after, AdSense will still be the way to go.


The people happy about the subscription-based channels also have some very good points, so I'm going to break them down and expand. Enjoy!

No More NSFW Bert and Ernie

Sesame Street programming is said to be coming to paid channels. This doesn't seem like a big deal for a lot of people, but for adults finding Bert and Ernie clips for a child on YouTube -- this is huge. Ever heard a joke about Bert and Ernie that's slightly provocative or 'dirty'? There's a video for that. Kermit and Miss Piggy have their own videos. The Smurfs have had fun with Smurfette. The My Little Pony gang has officially grown up and there are BDSM themes.


Yay? No, not when unsuspecting caretakers find a familiar name or brand and think, "Well, this will keep the kids occupied while I fold the laundry". My sister-in-law was upset for weeks after her kids stumbled upon a dark-themed My Little Pony fandom-type episode. We can all say that she should've done something different, but the blame is then being placed on the wrong person. The person uploading the video should have labeled the video appropriately. Instead, it ended up being flagged. A lot. My sister-in-law's Facebook friends rallied.

And right there, we can see why a channel that is child-friendly will be supported. For a buck or a few bucks a month, there will be a stream of videos completely safe for kiddies. Hopefully, there will be a built-in function to "keep" the kids in a safe zone. Like, the videos featured at the end of a current video ONLY coming from that specific paid channel. No leaks to the adult-related videos.


Treehouse Direct is a channel featuring Franklin, Babar, and even Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids. For less than $5 a month, there are full episodes available with no advertising. That's a huge savings compared to a cable package with a kids bundle added in.


NSFW: Not Safe For Work (or kids, especially kids)

Fight Night At Home

Any UFC fans in the house? For a little over $5 a month (prices may change, so we're working with generalities here), you can have access to episodes of The Ultimate Fighter, in full, along with past fights, like Alves vs Abedi. The whole fight, right there for you to watch.

In the future, it isn't crazy to think that live broadcasts will be made available to subscribers. Even if there is a little bit of an extra charge to view the fight live, the feature could turn out to be pretty lucrative. Reliable access is a great improvement over the current work-around of torrent streams. Not sure what that is? If you do a search for 'ufc torrent stream', you'll get a list of results for rebroadcasted "live" fights.

So if the UFC made a reliable way for people to easily connect to the game legally, even with a fee attached, there is a huge market. A lot of people use the torrent streams, not to get it 'free', but to not have to pay the exorbitant Pay-Per-View fees. Torrents are a pain in the rear. Give fans easy access, they will line up with their few bucks a pop.


How about wrestling fans? TNA Wrestling Plus features dozens of videos for under $5 a month. There are full streams of Pay-Per-View events from 2004 all the way up to 2012. Some of those videos have hundreds of views already. Why? Because there is a market for full events that are of good quality, sorted, and titled properly. Convenience is a huge factor.

Corman's Drive-In

With a launch date of June 13th, fans of Roger Corman's movies can subscribe to Corman's Drive-In channel. Known for his low-budget B-movies and having influenced some of the greatest directors of our time, Corman has a strong fan base.

Since his movies are not available on Netflix or Hulu, this is a great way for his fans to watch his movies without having to rent or buy. The plan for the channel is to have a rotation schedule, so not all movies will be available all the time. This helps justify the recurring cost and will also allow fans to opt-in when their favorite movies are showing.

If Corman's Drive-In is a success, this could be a path for other producers and directors in the future. While they may not want to sell rights to big companies, they still want good quality productions of their work available to fans. With a paid channel, they can still get some money from the whole deal, too. There's also more control over what is made available and for how long.


YouTube Channels Supplement Netflix and Hulu

Netflix and Hulu supply programming to millions of people at a time and YouTube is new to the 'paid' scene, their user base is larger. While bloggers all over the net shout from their roof tops about how YouTube has been and always should be free, the ease of access and familiarity with the site is going to be a huge draw for paying customers.

If you are familiar with Netflix and Hulu, you're already familiar with getting content that is high quality and reliable. YouTube hopes to offer more than the 50 or so channels available right now and it may be surprising what they come up with. Whether an obscure director decides to release videos on a rotating basis or a popular celebrity decides to start a vlog, there are a lot of possibilities.

Paid Channels Are Available On Other Devices

You will not be limited to watching the videos on your laptop. Other devices are supported, and as the popularity increases the list of devices is sure to grow. The xBox 360 has a YouTube app, and with the latest version you are able to watch your subscriptions. I've met a few gamers in my travels and they love taking their consoles with them on trips. Consoles even beat out laptops for some. Hey, sometimes you've just got to be able to build your pinatas.


For iOS and Android devices, subscriptions are under Channels and Channel Feed, respectively. Please remember that you'll have to log on through your computer to sign up for the channel or to cancel subscriptions.


Do you have a smartTV? The YouTube app varies by television manufacturer, but paid content is available this way as well.

Requirements and Restrictions for YouTube Paid Channels

Paid channels do offer a free trial period, but you're required to have a credit card attached to your Google Wallet to access even that. Unsure about giving Google your credit card information? Pick up a debit card at Walmart, get it activated and you're good to go.

I am not sure how many streams are allowed per account at one time. Netflix allows subscribers to have six different devices running off one account at a time. HuluPlus only allows one active stream at a time. Hopefully there will be a sort of balance when it comes to YouTube paid channels. While Netflix subscribers have the ability to share their account info with family or friends, HuluPlus users can't even have two devices running Plus content at the same time within one household.

If YouTube goes the HuluPlus route, there may be some unhappy households. There are likely some restrictions in place, as to not allow paying customers to just hand out their information at will.

Channels have the option of allowing price breaks for yearly subscriptions, and channel bundles will become increasingly popular. As long as new content is added on a regular basis, I see the paid model working well for Google's YouTube platform.

To Pay or Not to Pay?

Are you considering purchasing a subscription to a YouTube channel?

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